Houston, You have a Problem.



Jayson Babcock, Sports Editor, Staff Writer

In 2017, the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series, their first in franchise history. On the surface, the Astros were a great team with an experienced manager who simply out-played the other 29 teams. That was until they got caught cheating. 

On November 12th, Ken Rosenthal, an MLB writer for the Athletic, released an article stating the Houston Astros stole signs electronically during the 2017 season. Mike Fiers, a pitcher who played on the team during that year, came out on the issue.

“They were advanced and willing to go above and beyond to win,” Fiers told Rosenthal. How did they do it?

The setup wasn’t elaborate. Directly down the stairs from their home clubhouse, a TV monitor would be setup conveniently blocked by a series of well-placed towels. On that TV, a camera feed that was placed on the catcher, the one who gives the signs to the pitcher. The person watching the video would recognize what pitch was coming, and hit a garbage can with a baseball bat if it was a breaking ball. If it was a fastball, there would be silence. 

The footage is shocking. When the catcher told the pitcher to throw a curveball or slider, you would hear a banging coming from the Astros clubhouse. Every. Single. Time. 

Stealing signs has always been apart of baseball. If a base runner is on second base, and can learn the signs of the catcher and relay them to the hitter, that’s called gamesmanship. But using cameras or technology is crossing the line.

During the World Series, it would become very difficult for players to hear anything coming from the dugout. So they created a new system.

An earpiece was given to the bullpen coach, who is positioned directly in right-center field. The person talking through the earpiece would watch the signs given by the catcher, and relay them to the coach. He would place his hands on the fence if it was a fastball, and he would take his hands off the fence if it was a breaking ball. All the hitter had to do was peak over and he would know exactly what he was getting. There are videos of hitters clearly looking to the bullpen during their at-bats. 

This did not stop in 2017. 

Although alleged, a discrete whistle coming from the Astros dugout in 2019 told the hitter what pitch was coming. There are videos scattered all over the internet of the Astros cheating.

Commissioner Rob Manfred in a press conference on the situation said, “All I can tell you about that is we are going to investigate the Astros situation as thoroughly as humanly possible.” 

Don’t get confused. The Astros are still a great team. They have the capability of winning many championships over the coming years for sure. But there is no doubt they will need to pay for their wrong-doing. 

The investigation on the Astros cheating scandal will most likely last until late-January due to the amount of video that MLB will need to look into. 

As far as the punishments? We don’t know. Ban AJ Hinch, the Astros manager, from baseball for a year? Take away their 2017 World Series ring? Suspend Jeff Luhnow, the Astros General Manager?

There are a lot of possibilities. There is one thing we do know. The punishment will be harsh. The last thing MLB wants is for half the league to be cheating, so the Astros will be used as an example.